As physiotherapists at Mount Merrion Physiotherapy & Health, we aim to do all we can to help our clients achieve their health goals and to improve their quality of life.
Sleep is a huge part of our lives, considering that throughout our lifespan we will spend about one-third of it sleeping. Sleep needs vary with age. The average adult needs between 7 to 9 hours a night. Younger people need more, with school-aged children needing 9 to 11 hours.
In the last number of years, there has been an explosion into the world of sleep science. But, there is still a lot that is unknown when it comes to sleep.1
What do we need to sleep?
- Think of sleep like a ‘recharging’ concept, just as you would plug your phone in at night to charge the batteries, we need this time to recharge our body
- Sleep gives us time to help build and repair tissue - it helps improve the blood supply to tissues that are injured and need to heal
- There are cognitive and emotional benefits
- Sleep supports the metabolic function of the brain and body, flushing out old metabolic waste products
What happens when we experience a lack of sleep?
- Our immune system doesn’t work as effectively as it should
- We are at risk for developing chronic diseases, cardiac issues, headaches, obesity and type 2 diabetes
- There are negative impacts on mental performance such as poor concentration, reduced creative ability, mood changes, memory loss
There are also clear correlations between pain and sleep. People with poor sleep tend to experience more musculoskeletal pain and people with musculoskeletal pain have more disturbed sleep. This doesn’t mean that everyone who sleeps poorly will have musculoskeletal pain, however, there is a link between the two, it’s important to consider the bigger picture. It has been shown that chronic lower back pain is associated with greater sleep disturbance, poor sleep duration and quality.2
This doesn’t mean that as physiotherapists we are just going to solely focus on sleep to help our clients get better. But addressing sleep may be another important piece to the puzzle when it comes to treating our clients holistically, using a multimodal approach to get the best results.3
There are healthy sleep habits that can help improve sleep quality. Instead of trying to implement and change every single one at once, we should try to focus on one or two that we feel we could benefit from altering the most. As physiotherapists, we want to try and encourage healthy behavioural changes, to help maximise our patient’s quality of life.
Here are a few healthy sleep habits to try to improve on, and see if they make a difference for you:
- Wake up at the same time each day
- Try to get some regular exercise, for example, a brisk 30-minute walk after work
- Sleep in a cool, quiet and dark bedroom
- Try to go device-free at least 1 hour before bed
- Try to avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime
- Try to maintain a consistent bedtime
I hope you sleep well tonight.
By Katie Farrell
1.Physio Matters Podcast - Episode 56, Just Sleep on it, with Jason Silvernail
2.The Association Between Chronic Low Back Pain and Sleep, A Systematic Review. Kelly et al., 2011
3.Sleep Health and it’s Assessment and Management in Physical therapy practice: The evidence. Coren. Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, 25(5–6):442–452, 2009